MIAMI -- We are an hour from kickoff between Stanford and Virginia Tech in the Discover Orange Bowl. It is a beautiful evening, and Stanford is on the field for light pregame warm-ups. My three big questions going into the game:
1. Will distractions affect Stanford? We have heard the rumor mill connecting Jim Harbaugh to the NFL and Michigan. Reports say John Elway, set to be named as the Broncos' director of football operations, is in Miami to try and lure Harbaugh away. It just so happens Elway went to Stanford. Then you have Andrew Luck, who has to decide whether to leave school early to go into the NFL draft. He has remained mum on the topic. The bigger potential distraction is Harbaugh, but he has done a good job all week of shielding his team from distractions and deflecting questions about his future.
2. Stepfan Taylor. Folks who have watched Stanford all year know about him. But there will be a lot of people tuning into the Cardinal for the first time Monday night, and they may be surprised to know Stanford has somebody other than Luck. In fact, it will be on Taylor to help get the Stanford offense going because the Cardinal are so good at the run-pass balance. Taylor had more than 1,000 yards this season -- perhaps unexpectedly because many wondered how they would fill the void without Toby Gerhart.
3. How does Stanford handle the big stage? The Cardinal are not exactly BCS game veterans the way Virginia Tech is -- although the Hokies have not exactly handled the big stage well themselves. This one goes along with the distractions question -- it's how the team handles the intangibles in this game that could determine the outcome. Harbaugh has proven to be an exceptional coach, so you figure he will have his team ready to go even though the experience is new for everyone on the team -- including Harbaugh.